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REVIEWS for the circular and parallel patternings which vie with the line of the text in Divine History. The poem opens with Edward's impenitent return from a crusade and ends with the repentant Bruce asking for his heart to be carried on crusade; it opens with Edward viciously convening a parliament where power and infidelity are directed to worldly ends and concludes with Bruce in a state of penance convening a parliament in which justice min­ gles with mercy. That God as First Cause wills Bruce's victory and signs it to all through the design of history is structurally reflected in the early references to that king's (known) triumph through grace and the frequent supportive prophecies from Thomas of Erceldoune on. Thus, when Goldstein sets up a contrast in evaluative preference for the directness, personal focus, and modal complexity of The Wallace, I do not see matters as clearly. This is partly because of my contention that we should add Epic and Divine History to his modal definition of The Bruce, partly because there is evidence to suggest that the earlier poem may have had a different sort of directness-that of being read aloud (e.g., "doubill plesance in heryng. The first plesance is the carpyng"; l.4ff.). I should prefer the safer ground of likening the focus of The Bruce to that of the Miracle Cycles and that of The Wallace to the Moralities. Such matters can be debated. What I am certain about is the overall value of The Matter ofScotland in providing three things: the best book­ length account of the two poems to date, the necessary background for understanding the different traditions from which they emerged, and an argument which helps us see how medieval imaginative literature coped­ in retranslation-with the nice distinctions and overlaps between national history and national ideology. Those who read it will return to The Bruce and The Wallace with clearer guidelines and reinforced enthusiasm. R. D.S. )ACK University of Edinburgh BRITTON J. HARWOOD. Piers Plowman and the Problem ofBelief. Toronto, Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press, 1992. Pp. xii, 237. $60.00. In keeping with its claim to be a "formalist-historical" study of the poem, this is a rather old-fashioned book. Its point of departure is that Langland 205 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER "wrote Piers not in order to teach, but to find out ...how he might come to believe in Christ" (referring to B.1.81).Its method is to set Langland's religious arguments in the context of what Harwood takes to be orthodox Roman Catholic dogma, using authoritative Latin sources (which he does not translate), but without very much regard to what might have been Langland's likeliest sources in Latin or vernacular writing. Broadly speaking, then, the book explores Will's development through the poem.Many other authors, of course, have made the same attempt and, for my money, done so less personally but more illuminatingly.Harwood is unafraid of asserting, almost blandly, that at one point "the conative con­ science is contrition, signified by 'pacience' " (p.94), or, at another, that "Pacience ...dowel, Christ, and love are all ...materially the same" (p.96). His definitions of such terms are complex and supported largely by liberal line references, but I was not convinced by them.They seem to float in a vacuum, untested by reference to contrasting meanings in the poem itself or to parallel meanings in Middle English literature as a whole.His discussion of Patience, for example, makes no reference to all the work that has been done on this topic in Chaucer, or to the penitential tradition, where he could have found parallels to the "kind of spiritual bookkeeping" which he quite rightly identifies as one of Patience's activities in Piers. Of course, the finding of such parallels is not his purpose, which is to trace Will and Langland's spiritual journey as it appears to him to develop.But what then are to be the checks and balances which validate his reading? His reading of the poem as a dynamic expression of Langland/Will's development seems pretry original, though very...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 205-207
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
N
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